The last five years have seen a major revival of Greek cinema. Greek movies are being screened at leading film festivals picking up top awards.
This year’s edition of the Athens International Film Festival broke all records, with 15 feature films and 78 short films.
Euronews asked the festival’s artistic director what is behind this success story:
“The new generation of Greek filmmakers is better educated, more cultivated and more open-minded. The financial crisis, unfortunately, makes artists more sensitive to social problems, they are better at portraying the reality around them. Also, I believe that we have been good at cultivating our cinema industry, and now we are reaping the fruits,” said Orestis Andreadakis.
“September” by Penny Panayotopoulou tells the story of Anna, who lives with her dog in a small flat. When her beloved pet dies, she starts to get attached to a neighbouring family. It’s a sensitive story about loneliness, solitude and togetherness.
Screened at a number of international film festivals, the film has gained positive reviews.
“Cinema is now more accessible than ever to anyone who wants to make a movie. It is easier to shoot a film nowadays, said the film’s director Penny Panayotopoulou. “There are more and more international co-productions. Foreign producers trust Greek directors and they invest more willingly in Greek films. But I don’t believe that this way of producing films is good in the long run, because we can’t always be making cheap films. At the moment Greek cinema is fashionable and functions without the support of the state or private funding. But we need a more organised long-term plan,” she says.
“Luton” is Michalis Konstantatos’ first feature film. It began as a project in 2011 at the Cannes Festival’s Cinéfondation atelier. The film was premiered at the International Film Festival in San Sebastian.
It’s the story of Jimmy, a student, Mary, a trainee lawyer, and Makis, the owner of a mini-market – three people who apparently have nothing in common, but whose lives collide in this austere drama.
“Greek film makers work with great sincerity and openness. They deal with stories about universal reality, not just Greek reality,” said Michalis Konstantatos. “Greek directors don’t have any money. It’s always been difficult to shoot films in Greece. Today, it is even harder. The reason we are able to continue shooting films, is because we have good technical crews. All these people work so hard towards that goal. It’s about people who support each other, often without funding. But such efforts have an expiry date.”
Alexandros Avranas won the Silver Lion in Venice this year for his film “Miss Violence”, which also earned Themis Panou the Volpi Cup for Best Actor.
What makes a successful production company them want to invest in a film?
“We choose directors who have a personal vision to be at the vanguard of Greek cinema,” says Lelia Andronikou of Faliro House Productions, which is behind the movie. “I think the reason these films get so many awards abroad is that their film language captures the truth, not only for Greek cinema-goers, but also for an international audience, Avranas said.”
Greek cinema’s international success when it comes to psychological thrillers has even earned it a name – the “Hellenic Weird Wave”.
“From “Dogtooth” in 2009 to this year’s “Miss Violence”, Greek films have won more than thirty major awards at well-known international festivals. These films talk about human relationships, people’s problems, and the social and financial crisis. Despite – or maybe thanks to – the hard times the country is going through, Greek cinema is definitely blossoming.